Fisherfolk seeking protection of West Philippine Sea score win at SC

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Fisherfolk seeking protection of West Philippine Sea score win at SC
In a documentary released by the camp of senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales narrate how Chinese Coast Guard personnel have been harassing them in Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Facebook screengrab / Neri Colmenares

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court issued Friday a writ of kalikasan for the rehabilitation and protection of the marine environment in Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef.

In a statement, the SC Public Information Office said that the justices in a special en banc session “granted the prayer for the issuance of writ of kalikasan...to prevent violations of Philippine environmental laws in Philippine Waters and in the Philippine Exclusive Zone.”

A copy of the SC’s resolution has yet to be made public as of this story’s posting.

The writ of Kalikasan is a remedy formulated by the court to better protect the rights of the citizens to a balanced and healthful ecology as enshrined in the Constitution. It is a remedy available for persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity.

The SC acted on the petition filed by Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association that asked the court to compel the government to “prevent and prosecute violations of Philippine environmental laws in Philippine waters and in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).”

The group also asked the SC to compel the government to protect and rehabilitate the Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, which are part of our EEZ.

The petitioners also  asked the SC to direct the named government officials as respondents to "permanently cease and desist from neglecting the performance of their duties in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction or damage."

They petitioners raised that based on evidence submitted by the Philippines and reports from independent experts, “the [South China Sea] Arbitral Tribunal found that Chinese fishermen and foreign entities engaged by Chinese government authorities committed several acts that are harmful to the environment,” which are:

  • Harvesting of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species in Panatag and Ayungin shoals, such as corals, giant clams/taklobo and marine turtles
  • Use of cyanide and dynamite in Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal, which is against the Philippine Fisheries Code
  • Intensive construction of artificial islands on seven coral reefs, including Panganiban Reef

“There is an actual violation of Petitioners’ constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology arising from the omissions, failure, and/or refusal of respondents to enforce Philippine laws in Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef,” the petition read.

“Chinese fishermen harvested endangered and threatened species and used cyanide and explosives in their fishing. Foreign entities engaged by Chinese authorities constructed and damaged coral reefs in the process,” the petitioners added.

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